Archive for the ‘Seacom’ Tag

Fibre Optic Cables and Internet Bandwidth in Kenya : The Basics, part I

This is fibre optic cables 101. The basics, introduction, definitely not for the experts. Read on if you are, or not.

I always use the analogy of a water pipe to try and describe the much-talked about fibre optic cables and bandwidth. It is until we understand what the basics are, that we can begin to get a clue on what the fuss is all about. Then we shall fully embrace the potential that we are sitting on as a country.

Imagine we have water pipes running from a fresh water well to our homes. The well has an inexhaustible supply of water, so the only limit to the quantity of water flowing into your home is the size of the pipe delivering the water. You are at liberty to connect a pipe(s) of whatever size, depending on your needs and ability. The size or quantity of the pipes used do not matter, the well cannot run out of water. Also understand that the need for water in your home is essential, whatever the you use it for.

In the Kenya of yester years, we had “small, limited capacity” pipes to connect us to the rest of the world (or well). These pipes carried data (or Internet) and voice traffic from Kenya to the well. The pipes were used to take care of all bi-directional traffic into/out of Kenya. The “pipe capacity” is what is called “bandwidth”, and in the past we used satellites (or small, limited capacity pipes) to connect us to the world (or the well as described above).

After alot of twiddling of fingers, hand wringing, foot dragging and general indecison, we managed to lay bigger “pipes” from Mombasa to various parts of the world, by inter-connecting with existing bigger “pipes” regionally.

The only thing that has changed is now we have bigger capacity pipes (called sub-marine or undersea fibre optic cables) from three suppliers, i.e. Seacom, TEAMS and Eassy. All these bandwidth suppliers are selling their bandwidth capacity to resellers, called Internet Service providers (or ISPs). The ISPs then further resell the bandwidth to you and me, the consumer. Do not worry about the complex technology connecting you and the world, that is not important, for now.

Note: They are called “submarine” or “undersea” cables because from Mombasa the cables are laid on the seabed all the way to the inter-connection points farther afield.

The immediate effect of this limitless capacity is we should now, theoretically, be able to have faster and cheaper connections to the world. Our international voice calls should be clearer, without static or the annoying delay. Our Internet experience should be richer, faster and we should be able to access bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming video with no delay. Downloads should be faster, saving us time and money. Uploads should be faster, saving us time and money. Anything interactive, like video-conferencing, should be a breeze.

NOTE: I keep saying “should”, because the reality for you and me may not be any different from the recent past.

OK, now you ask, so what? What is the big deal? Why all the fuss? So what if we have superb speeds due to the limitless bandwidth? How does this change my life, or yours? How does it change my grandmother’s life, back in my village? How does it change the small or the big commercial farmer’s life? Or the student, or politician, or small or big business owner? Or the matatu owner, or priest in your church? Or the government hospital or the goverment? Now that we have an almost limitless bandwidth capacity, what does it really mean for the ordinary Internet user like you and me?

Will this capacity create jobs? Change the economy? How? When? What has been the impact / experience in other countries? Could this be another over-hyped technological farce?

Worry not, I will hold your hand and walk you through this. This will form part II of our discussion.

Let me have your feedback below.

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Free Internet Until Jan 4th, from KDN Butterfly

The nabobs that be at Parkside Towers, KDN HQ, looked across the city scape, and said, let us give them free Internet until 4th Jan. So KDN is extending their Butterfly service for free as a year end bonus for 2009. They are hoping you will remember this gesture of goodwill and sign up for their service, if you haven’t already.

My only wish is that the KDN Customer Scare, sorry, Customer Care nabobs can look across the city scape and say, let us offer them the best customer experience, let us create stark-raving mad evangelists from our customers, let us make them so happy, they will shed tears of utter joy, let us organize our Customer Service machinery and indeed the entire organization, to serve them best, and let’s see the business balloon, but no. That is too much for them to do. Twirling their fingers 24-7 is a better way to spend their important time.

I wish the Tech Support nabobs would look across the cityscape and say, let us over-support our customers. Let us pro-actively manage our network, let us tweak, look under the hood, test, re-test, simulate, and otherwise anticipate all possible tech problems. I wish they could say, let us quickly and firmly deal with any issue that escapes our attention and affects the customer, hence making them happy and productive. But no, that is too much. Twirling their fingers 24-7 is a better way to spend their important time.

You then wonder why our economy is stuck! The landing of the under sea FOC is not the end all be all, that is just humongous bandwidth to be hawked.

Service delivery is king! Just do it, KDN! Period.

Kenya on The Global Fibre Optic Map, Finally

Seacom has gone live! Finally. I was to break the champagne bottle on 27th June 2009, but July 23 is still OK. Read more from Daily Nation.

Internet broadband has become a reality in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda for the first time after one of the four awaited undersea cables was finally switched on today (Thursday).

The Seacom cable went live simultaneously in the four countries in addition to South Africa, and the Kenya portion of the cable was immediately connected to five internet service providers.

However, Seacom officials declined to name the ISPs because their customer contracts barred them from revealing such information.

Seacom, a privately-funded consortium, laid the cable at a cost of US$865m (Sh67 billion at current exchange rates). It is due to be connected to Rwanda in two weeks.

The commissioning was marked with a live telecast by Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar es Salaam with the media in Kampala, Maputo, Johannesburg, London and Marseille.

“The arrival of this cable signals the beginning of a new era in the telecommunications sector,” said Mr Kikwete.

“History has been made.”

Cisco Systems vice-president Le Roux, whose firm provided the technology for the cable, said: ” “Today is the day technology has arrived in Africa.”

Seacom announced that it would offer wholesale prices in the range of $100 (Sh7,700 ) per megabyte, with even more subsidised costs of between $10-$25 (Sh770-Sh1,925) dollars to schools, and research and health institutions.

“I can emphatically state that broadband will change the connectivity and economy of Africa,” said Seacom president Brian Herlihy in a live feed from the Tanzanian capital.

Five yet-to-be-named internet players were the first to access the 6,500 kilometre-cable following the switch and will now connect their equipment to the marine cable as they prepare to link offices and homes.